Vogue Australia’s upcoming May issue pictures four strong Indigenous women, models and creatives in celebration of First Nations talent. Cindy Rostron, Magnolia Maymuru, Charlee Fraser and Elaine George are the names behind the powerful faces on the magazine’s cover. Now, we’ll take a peek into the First Nations women whose creativity will be showcased in their designs on the AAFW Runway 2022.

Clockwise from top, Magnolia Maymuru, Charlee Fraser, Cindy Rostron & Elaine George | Credit: Vogue

Creating access to opportunities, skill development and industry engagement, First Nations Fashion Design (FNFD) is an NFP Indigenous Corporation and movement that is all about supporting the growth of the ecology of the Indigenous fashion industry. The program provides a national platform that gives voice to the women, stylists, curators, designers, photographers, and models of Indigenous Fashion while working toward a self-sustaining ecosystem. A statement on FNFD reads,

“One of our key aim of FNFD is to assist to improve the economic status of First Nations designers and communities, through increasing enterprise capability, and investment into community made arts and products. Beyond that, it is also a chance to celebrate Indigenous independent designers and increase their design skills and profile.”

This year, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) will see Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP) return to the runway and First Nations Fashion and Design will begin with a Welcome to Country. Followed by the launch of new and exclusive collections by Indigenous designers. The runway pays homage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from all across Australia. Together, we celebrate their stories, knowledge, cultural heritage and incredibly innovative designs.

Meet The First Nations Women Behind It All

Australian Afterpay Fashion Week 2021 | Credit: Indigenous Fashion Projects

The six Indigenous women, Nancy Pattison, Amanda Healy, Liandra Gaykamangu, Natalie Cunningham, Denni Francisco and Julie Shaw are making their mark on the global fashion landscape. Bringing with them their journey and creativity, they are not only pushing the boundaries to have First Nations Fashion incorporated into mainstream media.

These women are catalysts, changing the way fashion is developed. With ties to culture and practice, First Nations women incorporate the innovative use of sustainable materials and techniques. Each vibrant collection draws on the designers’ narrative and their deep connection to Country through fashion and design.

Indii, By Saltwater Dunghutti designer Nancy Pattison

The sustainable swimwear of Indii, established in 2015 by Dunghutti Woman of South West Rocks, Nancy Pattison builds on story and culture, each piece uniquely drawing on the coastal landscapes of her Country.

Ocean and nature are perfectly partnered in the Aboriginal dot paintings of her designs.

Kirrikin, By Wonnarua designer Amanda Healy

Kirrikin is an Aboriginal word that roughly translates to “Sunday’s best clothes”. The brand, built by Wonnarua Woman, Amanda Healy, offers a diverse range of pieces, from cashmere scarfs to resort wear and menswear! All of which are designed by First Nations artists, women and respected elders.

Liandra Swim, By Yolngu designer Liandra Gaykamangu

Ethical and eco-conscious, Liandra Swim, boasts beauty through seamless designs and striking prints. Each signature print takes inspiration from Aboriginal Australian culture and delves into a deeper narrative. The ethically minded brand founded by Yolngu Woman, Liandra Gaykamangu uses regenerated plastics and recycled elastane with decomposable bags and plant-based packaging.

Native Swimwear, By Biripi and Ngarabal designer Natalie Cunningham

Native Swimwear Australia is the first Aboriginal fashion label in history to showcase at New York fashion week in 2015. Biripi and Ngarabal designer, Natalie Cunningham explores ancient First Nations wisdom told through bold colours and patterns. Each garment is designed with inspiration from the oldest living culture in the world- the Aboriginal culture.

Ngali, By Wiradjuri designer Denni Francisco 

Ngali translates to ‘we’ or ‘us’ in a number of Australian Aboriginal languages. The brand is about creating a harmonious union between sustainability and equitability while connecting Country and each other.

Credit: Ngali

The goal of Ngali and designers is to maintain the artwork as the hero and utilise silhouettes to bring the artwork to life on fabric. Founder of Ngali Francisco says,

“I believe as an Indigenous person, there is a connection to our ancestors that we feel guided by. It’s like an invisible support… that’s why we feel like we have freedom to create. As a culture, I think we just see things a little bit differently. I measure Ngali’s success on what it means for the remote Indigenous artists we work with, what it is we can contribute to educating our kids in remote communities, and the ability for us to share our stories and celebrate who we are as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Maara Collective, By Yuwaalaraay designer Julie Shaw

MAARA Collective acknowledges and honours the ‘many hands’ involved in the creative and collaborative processes of its pieces. Launched in 2019, Yuwaalaraay Creative Director, Julie Shaw founded the brand to showcase and celebrate Indigenous art and fashion. The brand supports digital training and education in Aboriginal communities with proceeds from every product purchased going towards the fund.

Charlee Fraser in Swim for Maara Collective | Credit: Maara Collective Website

Following years of underrepresentation, First Nations designers are creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The skills they are putting forward are reflected in their vast designs with a focus on sustainable apparel and traditional craft passed down through generations. First Nations people are shaping the future of fashion design and how we choose to engage with ethically-minded and sustainable fashion brands.

First Nations fashion is the future and so too are conscious consumers. Watch this space!

Kirrikin Cashmere Scarf- Split Jack $245
Ngali Brown Bark Silk Pants $395
Maara Collective ‘Bindi’ Silk Maxi Dress, Tjukula Print

You can see these designs on the Runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2022 which will begin on Monday 9th May and end on Friday 13th May. Check out the schedule here.

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